Twitter killed RSS (and that’s a bad thing)

I’ve used Google Reader religiously since it launched.  I’m a few days away from quitting it forever.  Pretty much every blog I read tweets the titles of their posts along with a link.  Better yet, the people I follow retweet their favorite links, providing a very efficient way for me to discover new articles to read and publishers to follow.

Contrary to all the uninformed handwringing about how Twitter is making people dumb, I find I’m reading more long form blog and newspaper content than ever.   And the stuff I’m reading is more interesting and relevant.  That’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, Google Reader has been desperately adding social features such as sharing starred posts and automatically recommending blogs.  These features are clumsy and won’t save Reader, or RSS, from its inevitable decline.

Although I’m generally happier as a user, I think all of this is bad for the internet.  Twitter isn’t an open protocol.   It’s a private company with a profit motive that has a history of unreliable service. Moreover, URL shorteners – a byproduct of Twitter – are effectively creating a second layer DNS service that is far less secure and reliable.

I know that many people have been calling for an open alternative to Twitter for a long time.  I support them, but I’m afraid it’s too late. The network effects of Twitter’s social graph are just too strong.  Not to mention its brand momentum.  But the biggest reason Twitter has won is that mainstream users don’t care enough about these “principled” objections to switch.  Do you think Ashton or Oprah cares about open protocols?  I doubt it.

But someday they will care – when the internet is less open, less reliable and less secure.

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